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John Adams on the Real American Revolution

I first visited America in the July of 2004.

I went alone, flying from Heathrow airport to Boston’s Logan Airport, picked up the car I had rented at Alamo’s a bus ride away and found my way to the YMCA on Huntington Avenue, where I had already booked a room for three nights weeks earlier over the internet. I had hoped to get to bed early so as to avoid as much as possible the effects of jet lag (it was three o’clock in the morning according to my body clock), but I was hungry, and looked for somewhere to eat and have a beer and eventually found my way to the Irish pub just across the road.

The following morning, I awoke early (EST) and as I looked out of my bedroom window across the rooves towards Cambridge, the light had that quality which reminded me so much of the light in Italy, seen from a train window early one morning many years earlier, and it was not difficult to believe that Boston is on the same latitude as southern Portugal.

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After a full breakfast, I walked all the way to the Common, explored Beacon Hill with its strangely familiar Federalist architecture not unlike the Regency architecture back home, walked the Freedom Trail, visiting Park Street Congregationalist Church, a beacon of orthodoxy at a time when many of Boston’s Congregationalist and Episcopalian churches were going over to the Unitarian and Universalist heresy, the Old South Meeting House, venue of seditious meetings in the run-up to the Revolution, the Old State House, and Faneuil Hall, known as the “cradle of liberty”, stopped in the Food Hall of Quincy Market to buy a hot dog and, thus fortified, walked on to Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church.

In the afternoon, I went on the harbor tour, stopping off at the USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned ship afloat and visiting the museum, where I was buttonholed by a young researcher who told me the fascinating story of a young midshipman who sailed aboard the Constitution and who saw the Philadelphia burn in America’s first foreign adventure.

In the evenings I watched Boston Red Sox play on the telly in the Irish pub, the lights of Fenway Park visible from my room in the YMCA.

I spent three days in Boston, which, for me, new to this country, constituted the sum total of my first hand experience of America at that time and indeed was America.

It was one of those experiences that you knew you would look back on and treasure for the rest of your life and you were in the process of living it!

What stands out the most?

The opening paragraphs of the declaration of Independence in an original Dunlap Broadside under glass on a wall inside the Old State House and being moved by those ringing words in a way I had never been before, and which, for me, formed kind of epiphany?

The Freedom Trail?

The intriguing Italo-American accents of Boston’s North End?

The hot-dogs and pizza (the best I had ever eaten), washed down with root ale (another discovery), in the Food Hall of Quincy Market?

The harbor tour?

The Harpoon IPA? (And I always thought American beer was crap!)

The besuited “heavies” standing outside John Kerry’s residence in Louisburg Square?

Shakespeare on the Common?

The girl with cascading, curling golden tresses, who could have been anything from 14 to 24 who triumphantly held aloft a ball in the stalls above the Green Monster after a flurry to retrieve it after Kevin Youkilis had scored a home run?

The white sails of the yachts joyously plying to and fro on the Charles River?

What stands out the most are the following words of John Adams, America’s second president, which I read, displayed under Perspex on an information plaque, on Boston Common, and which hit me between the eyes:

What do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations…This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.”

During that that winter which Washington and his fledgling army spent at Valley Forge, the American Revolution faced its darkest hour.

Speaking of the condition of his troops at that time, Washington said: “ . . . you might have tracked the army from White Marsh to Valley Forge by the blood of their feet.”

The Revolution was supported by such friends as Lafayette and Rochambeau from France, von Steuben from Prussia, and Kosciuszko from Poland and, although we Brits were ostensibly at war with the Colonies, it had its Friends in this country, too.

The Duke of Richmond, a great grandson of Charles II, said in the House of Lords that under no code should the fighting Americans be considered traitors. What they did was “perfectly justifiable in every possible political and moral sense.”

All the world knows that Chatham and Burke and Fox urged the conciliation of America and hundreds took the same stand.

Burke said of General Conway, a man of position, that when he secured a majority in the House of Commons against the Stamp Act his face shone as the face of an angel.

Since the bishops almost to a man voted with the King, Conway attacked them as in this untrue to their high office.

Sir George Savile, whose benevolence, supported by great wealth, made him widely respected and loved, said that the Americans were right in appealing to arms.

Coke of Norfolk, a fellow farmer who corresponded with Washington, said: “…every night during the American War did I drink the health of General Washington as the greatest man on earth.” The war, he said, was the King’s war, ministers were his tools, the press was bought. Those who paid taxes, he said, should control those who governed. America was not getting fair play.

Both Coke and Fox, and no doubt many others, wore waistcoats of blue and buff because these were the colors of the uniforms of Washington’s army.”

IMG_0342I spent a total of fifteen days in America, visiting Boston, Cambridge, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Newport, Mystic, New Haven, New York (and yes, New Yorkers really do call it Noo Yoik!), Washington, the Watergate and Georgetown during a summer storm, the Skyline Drive, the house that Jefferson built at Monticello, Hooper’s Island on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake, and back to Washington to visit Pennsylvania Avenue, Congress, the National Gallery, and Georgetown again, returning from Washington’s Dulles Airport.

And, despite the evil deeds done in America’s (and Britain’s) name in foreign lands, the Revolution still has its Friends in this country today. Oh, BTW, I found the tea in Boston a little salty!

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The Essential Chomsky

In a single volume, the seminal writings of the world’s leading philosopher, linguist, and critic, published to coincide with his eightieth birthday.

For the past forty years Noam Chomsky’s writings on politics and language have established him as a preeminent public intellectual and as one of the most original and wide-ranging political and social critics of our time. Among the seminal figures in linguistic theory over the past century, since the 1960s Chomsky has also secured a place as perhaps the leading dissident voice in the United States.

Chomsky’s many bestselling works—including Manufacturing Consent, Hegemony or Survival, Understanding Power, and Failed States—have served as essential touchstones for dissidents, activists, scholars, and concerned citizens on subjects ranging from the media to human rights to intellectual freedom. In particular, Chomsky’s scathing critiques of the U.S. wars in Vietnam, Central America, and the Middle East have furnished a widely accepted intellectual inspiration for antiwar movements over nearly four decades.

The Essential Chomsky assembles the core of his most important writings, including excerpts from his most influential texts over the past forty years. Here is an unprecedented, comprehensive overview of Chomsky’s thought.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor emeritus of linguistics at MIT and the author of numerous books including Chomsky vs. Foucault: A Debate on Human Nature, On Language, Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship, and Towards a New Cold War (all published by The New Press). He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Chomsky: Bush & Cheney Always Saw Iraq as a Sweetheart Oil Deal

By Noam Chomsky, Khaleej Times Online. Posted July 12, 2008.

U.S. war planners want an obedient client state that will house major U.S. military bases, right at the heart of the world’s major energy reserves.

The deal just taking shape between Iraq’s Oil Ministry and four Western oil companies raises critical questions about the nature of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq — questions that should certainly be addressed by presidential candidates and seriously discussed in the United States, and of course in occupied Iraq, where it appears that the population has little if any role in determining the future of its country.

Negotiations are under way for Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners decades ago in the Iraq Petroleum Company, now joined by Chevron and other smaller oil companies — to renew the oil concession they lost to nationalization during the years when the oil producers took over their own resources. The no-bid contracts, apparently written by the oil corporations with the help of U.S. officials, prevailed over offers from more than 40 other companies, including companies in China, India and Russia.

“There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract,” Andrew E. Kramer wrote in the New York Times.

Kramer’s reference to “suspicion” is an understatement. Furthermore, it is highly likely that the military occupation has taken the initiative in restoring the hated Iraq Petroleum Company, which, as Seamus Milne writes in the U.K. Guardian, was imposed under British rule to “dine off Iraq’s wealth in a famously exploitative deal.”

Later reports speak of delays in the bidding. Much is happening in secrecy, and it would be no surprise if new scandals emerge.

The demand could hardly be more intense. Iraq contains perhaps the second-largest oil reserves in the world, which are, furthermore, very cheap to extract: no permafrost or tar sands or deep-sea drilling. For U.S. planners, it is imperative that Iraq remain under U.S. control, to the extent possible, as an obedient client state that will also house major U.S. military bases, right at the heart of the world’s major energy reserves.

That these were the primary goals of the invasion was always clear enough through the haze of successive pretexts: weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein’s links with al Qaeda, democracy promotion and the war against terrorism, which, as predicted, sharply increased as a result of the invasion.

Last November, the guiding concerns were made explicit when President Bush and Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, signed a “Declaration of Principles,” ignoring the U.S. Congress, the Iraqi parliament and the populations of the two countries.

The declaration left open the possibility of an indefinite long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq that would presumably include the huge air bases now being built around the country, and the “embassy” in Baghdad, a city within a city, unlike any embassy in the world. These are not being constructed to be abandoned.

The declaration also had a remarkably brazen statement about exploiting the resources of Iraq. It said that the economy of Iraq — which means its oil resources — must be open to foreign investment, “especially American investments.” That comes close to a pronouncement that we invaded you so that we can control your country and have privileged access to your resources.

The seriousness of this commitment was underscored in January, when Bush issued a “signing statement” declaring that he would reject any congressional legislation that restricted funding “to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq” or “to exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq.”

Extensive resort to “signing statements” to expand executive power is yet another Bush innovation, condemned by the American Bar Association as “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers.” To no avail.

Not surprisingly, the declaration aroused immediate objections in Iraq, among others from Iraqi unions, which survive even under the harsh anti-labor laws that Hussein instituted and the occupation preserves.

In Washington propaganda, the spoiler to U.S. domination in Iraq is Iran. U.S. problems in Iraq are blamed on Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sees a simple solution: “Foreign forces” and “foreign arms” should be withdrawn from Iraq — Iran’s, not ours.

The confrontation over Iran’s nuclear program heightens the tensions. The Bush administration’s “regime change” policy toward Iran comes with ominous threats of force (there Bush is joined by both U.S. presidential candidates). The policy also is reported to include terrorism within Iran — again legitimate, for the world rulers. A majority of the American people favor diplomacy and oppose the use of force. But public opinion is largely irrelevant to policy formation, not just in this case.

An irony is that Iraq is turning into a U.S.-Iranian condominium. The Maliki government is the sector of Iraqi society most supported by Iran. The so-called Iraqi army — just another militia — is largely based on the Badr brigade, which was trained in Iran and fought on the Iranian side during the Iran-Iraq War.

Nir Rosen, one of the most astute and knowledgeable correspondents in the region, observes that the main target of the U.S.-Maliki military operations, Moktada al-Sadr, is disliked by Iran as well: He’s independent and has popular support, and is therefore dangerous.

Iran “clearly supported Prime Minister Maliki and the Iraqi government against what they described as ‘illegal armed groups’ (of Moktada’s Mahdi army) in the recent conflict in Basra,” Rosen writes, “which is not surprising given that their main proxy in Iraq, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, dominates the Iraqi state and is Maliki’s main backer.”

“There is no proxy war in Iraq,” Rosen concludes, “because the U.S. and Iran share the same proxy.”

Tehran is presumably pleased to see the United States institute and sustain a government in Iraq that’s receptive to its influence. For the Iraqi people, however, that government continues to be a disaster, very likely with worse to come.

In Foreign Affairs, Steven Simon points out that current U.S. counterinsurgency strategy is “stoking the three forces that have traditionally threatened the stability of Middle Eastern states: tribalism, warlordism and sectarianism.” The outcome might be “a strong, centralized state ruled by a military junta that would resemble” Saddam Hussein’s regime.

If Washington achieves its goals, then its actions are justified. Reactions are quite different when Vladimir Putin succeeds in pacifying Chechnya, to an extent well beyond what Gen. David Petraeus has achieved in Iraq. But that is them, and this is the United States. Criteria are therefore entirely different.

In the United States, the Democrats are silenced now because of the supposed success of the U.S. military surge in Iraq. Their silence reflects the fact that there are no principled criticisms of the war. In this way of regarding the world, if you’re achieving your goals, the war and occupation are justified. The sweetheart oil deals come with the territory.

In fact, the whole invasion is a war crime — indeed the supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes in that it encompasses all the evil that follows, in the terms of the Nuremberg judgment. This is among the topics that can’t be discussed, in the presidential campaign or elsewhere. Why are we in Iraq? What do we owe Iraqis for destroying their country? The majority of the American people favor U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Do their voices matter?

Noam Chomsky’s writings on linguistics and politics have just been collected in The Essential Chomsky, edited by Anthony Arnove, from the New Press. Chomsky is an emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

© 2008 Khaleej Times Online All rights reserved.

We, the Salt of the Earth, Take Precedence

Paul Craig Roberts | Lew Rockwell.com | Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Which country is the rogue nation? Iraq? Iran? Or the United States? Syndicated columnist Charley Reese asks this question in a recently published article.

Reese notes that it is the US that routinely commits “acts of aggression around the globe.” The US government has no qualms about dropping bombs on civilians whether they be in Serbia, the Middle East, or Africa. It is all in a good cause – our cause.

This slaughtering of foreigners doesn’t seem to bother the American public. Americans take it for granted that Americans are superior and that American purposes, whatever they be, take precedence over the rights of other people to life and to a political existence independent of American hegemony. Continue reading ‘We, the Salt of the Earth, Take Precedence’

Robert Scheer: Happy Oil Dependence Day

Robert Scheer | Truthdig | 2nd July, 2008

As we head into the Fourth of July weekend of patriotic bluster and beer swilling—but before we are too besotted with ourselves—might we also for once consider our imperfections? Why not take a moment to heed the cautions of our founding father, George Washington, whose true legacy will most likely be ignored during the flag-waving weekend?

Washington’s “Farewell Address” to the new nation was a warning about the threat of American imperial ambitions and a declaration of his high expectations for a republic of free men: “In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself, that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism. …” Continue reading ‘Robert Scheer: Happy Oil Dependence Day’

The Book They’re still Talking About

The recent publication of Pat Buchanan’s latest book, Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War”: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, was greeted with a plethora of reviews, including Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s, “Churchill and His Myths” (a possible allusion to Churchill’s phrase, “Hitler and all his works”), which appeared in The New York review of Books, and in which he also reviewed a number of other books on Churchill, these being John Lukacs’ own Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: The Dire Warning, Lynne Olson’s Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England, about the Tory rebels who voted against Chamberlain in 1940, and Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization, which Lukacs has denounced, unsurprisingly, as “a bad book”, and, most notably, John Lukacs review, “Necessary Evil”, which appeared in the June 2, 2008 [sic] issue (presumably online), sometime late last May, of The American Conservative.

On this side of the Big Pond, Peter Hitchens, younger brother of Christopher, wrote a review for The Daily Mail, titled, “Was World War Two just as pointless and self-defeating as Iraq, asks Peter Hitchens”, in which he confesses to having to revise his view of Britain’s role in the Second World War, something which I myself have been doing in recent weeks, both as a result of my reading of Guido Giacomo Preperata’s book, Conjuring Hitler, and Buchanan’s book.

(Preperata’s book, though thought-provoking, suffers from the fact that he uses works by the discredited British author, David Irving, who lost a libel case against Penguin books in 1998 and served a prison sentence in Austria for identifying and glorifying the Nazi Party, as a secondary source, an error which the cannier Buchanan has studiously avoided.)

Not to be outdone, big brother Chritsoper Hitchens has now weighed in with a scathing review titled, The Necessary War, and published, along with a number of other articles on Churchill, in Newsweek magazine, which concludes with the words, “This book stinks”.

Buchanan answers Hitchens’ points in an article published in Taki’s Magazine, which I reproduce below:

Was the Holocaust Inevitable?

“What Would Winston Do?”

So asks Newsweek‘s cover, which features a full-length photo of the prime minister his people voted the greatest Briton of them all.

Quite a tribute, when one realizes Churchill’s career coincides with the collapse of the British empire and the fall of his nation from world pre-eminence to third-rate power.

That the Newsweek cover was sparked by my book Churchill, Hitler and The Unnecessary War seems apparent, as one of the three essays, by Christopher Hitchens, was a scathing review. Though in places complimentary, Hitchens charmingly concludes: This book “stinks.”

Understandable. No Brit can easily concede my central thesis: The Brits kicked away their empire. Through colossal blunders, Britain twice declared war on a Germany that had not attacked her and did not want war with her, fought for 10 bloody years and lost it all.

Unable to face the truth, Hitchens seeks solace in old myths. Continue reading ‘The Book They’re still Talking About’


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Adams in Patriotic Mode

“What do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations…This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.” John Adams

The Declaration of Independence

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Benjamin Franklin: A Documentary History – J. A. Leo Lemay

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